Eating gluten free: Does it relieve sinus allergies?

I have two goals with this post: The first one is to show you how I conduct experiments. The second one is to describe my eating gluten free – without celiac disease – experience. Here we go!

My nose is always one of two: congested, or running. Yup, that’s what sinus allergies do to me.

That;s of course, on top of facial acne – something I didn’t even have as a teenager and only developed recently, hives, scratching, sneezing, etc.

Yet, all this wouldn’t be  a severe problem, if I also didn’t have allergy attacks. When an attack strikes, I am completely dependent on decongestants, I wake up at 5 or 6 am because I cannot breathe, and I feel a terrible pressure around my nose.

Lacking sleep, being unable to breathe, and feeling this terrible pressure…sinus allergies suck!

Through the last year I have been desperate to find what I can do to relieve my allergies. The skin test said I have no food allergies. What I am actually allergic to is…dust. It’s year round and there’s little you can do to relieve it.

Yet I had hope: I’ve read countless stories of people with sinus problems who go gluten free and their symptoms vanish. Gluten free means no pasta, bread, or anything with wheat flour. No beer either. Here’s a long post explaining why gluten is evil from Tim Ferriss blog.

Now people usually go gluten free because of celiac disease, a digestive disorder. I’m fine. No disease here. But still, because I’ve read people swearing by how beneficual eating gluten free was for them, even without celiac disease, I thought I should give it a try.

Considering I’m a pasta and pizza fan, eating gluten free would be a big deal for me. Still, because of the intensity of my allergies, I thought it must be worth to try, at least for 3 weeks.

And so I took the leap on August 13! In this post I’ll explain what I’ve found since then.

eating gluten free
Bye-bye bread! The eating gluten free experiment started on Aug 13th!

Here’s the “eating gluten free” experiment design:

Hypothesis: Eating gluten free relieves sinus allergies.

Testing process: Go gluten free for at least three weeks.

Indications of true/false:

  1. Symptom reduction throughout the gluten free period, when symptoms are: runny nose, congested nose, sneezing, scratching, hives, acne.
  2. Worsening of symptoms when going back to a non gluten free diet.

What to keep in mind: People sensitive to gluten, may also be sensitive to dairy. Eliminating gluten but not eliminating dairy, may lead to no difference in symptoms. If I am one of these people, then I’ll keep having allergy symptoms regardless of eating gluten free.

Here’s exactly what happened since I started eating gluten free.

The Good

Through the first three weeks I had no significant allergies. This was a positive indication that eating gluten free was helpful for my allergies. Yet, I could not conclude that eating gluten free was the reason behind that.

The Bad

Then, on September 7th, I actually ate a hamburger. That’s two pieces of bread on top and below my burger 🙂 End of gluten free.

It was a Saturday evening when I broke the experiment. Nothing happened that night. I was fine! It seemed I was not sensitive to gluten after all.

Yet, the next day I woke up with early symptoms of the terrible pressure around my nose  – exactly what happens during allergy attacks.

Not a good sign. That was a definite indication that going back to a non gluten free diet was affecting me. But what if it was a mere coincidence?

Since I had no strong evidence to come to a conclusion, I went ahead and repeated the experiment.

Starting on the very next day, on Sunday September 8th, I went back to eating gluten free.

The Bad

It’s now October 1st. Since then I have had allergies, not severe, but still they are there: runny nose, hives, all that good stuff.

The Good

I have had a positive indication though: my face acne has cleaned up significantly.

Yet, once again, I cannot conclude that it was eating gluten free that caused this. I actually changed the face soap I am using (went from Clinique to Dove), and maybe that has to do with it?

How will I decide whether eating gluten free increases my allergies or not?

My next step is to break the experiment once again, on a typical day, possibly a weekday, and see what happens. If my symptoms worsen, then this will definitely be a strong indication that I am indeed sensitive to gluten.

Sure, getting a worsening of symptoms once may be a coincidence, but twice..? That would be weird.

If nothing happens, then I’m probably not sensitive to gluten.

So I’ll be continuing my experiment, and I’ll soon give you an update on whether gluten has to do with my sinus allergies or not.

October 8th Update: The verdict of the experiment.

As promised I stopped the experiment once again to see whether I would experience any side-effects by re-introducing gluten to my life.

I did that last Friday October 4th. I ate a big bowl of pasta…yummy! Great lunch.

Up until Saturday afternoon I had absolutely no side-effects. I felt confident that me and gluten could keep our relationship going. By Saturday evening though I started feeling this pressure around my nose, my nose started being congested, and I just didn’t feel good. I was experiencing an allergy outbreak.

The pressure and congested nose started clearing up after 2-3 days. I was relieved to see it go away.

The last time that I had these kind of symptoms was one day after I stopped the my first gluten free experiment. Was it a mere coincidence that I had the exact same symptoms one day after re-introducing gluten? I don’t think so.

My official verdict is that gluten has to do with my sinus allergies. I am sensitive to it, so from now on gluten-free will be my way of life.

I might run more experiments in the future – like introducing gluten to a small amount (e.g., eating a small biscuit) vs. large amount (e.g., eating a big bowl of pasta), or I might experiment with removing more grains out of my diet and then again monitoring results. My goal is to get rid of my allergies altogether, and removing gluten is just the first step.

UPDATE: I run one more experiment. I cut out gluten and introduced it back a few weeks later. No reactions whatsoever. This shows that probably my suspicions of gluten were unfounded. Instead, what I’ve found to be responsible for my allergies is stress. I’m 100% positive about that. I’ll discuss it in a future post.

If you want to be notified of future experiments, then make sure that you sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get free updates and tips about 1-2 a month.


P.S.1 There’s a pleasant side-effect while eating gluten free, and that is…losing weight. I’ve lost a little more than 4 pounds since I got started. That’s without me doing anything different other than not eating foods with gluten. Not bad, huh?

P.S.2 Want to read more experiments? Check out the practicing mindfulness one, and its sequel.

Photo Credit: Moyan_Brenn

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  1. One important thing I’d like to also mention here is that there was a flaw to this experiment. I have gluten sensitivity and the problem with testing like this, is that I could go a month gluten free and be great. If I ate half a pizza one day suddenly, I might not feel the effects of it then. It might take a couple days before I start having stomach problems and feeling fatigued and sick in general. I could immediately go gluten free the next day, but this episode could last up to 3 weeks for me before it ends, depending on the severity. Usually it takes several days of eating gluten freely before it brings on an episode. Although lately I notice effects from even a small cheat sometimes.

    I had gluten issues for many many years and it wasn’t until this year that I discovered it myself after remembering the most healthy I felt was when I did the Atkin’s diet, which eliminates all carbs. But I have allergies just as severe as you do and it occurred to me today that maybe some of my symptoms are related. Although it seems like I have allergies always regardless of how much gluten I eat, it’s rare I go a full month without gluten. Which is how long I need to, to completely get rid of the effects. Maybe even the smallest amount of gluten can bring on allergy issues with me, which makes me very sad!!!!! I might need to try eliminating it for a couple months and see how I feel.

  2. It’s funny….reading that, reminds me so much of myself. How we manage to blame something else, despite pretty good evidence that it’s the gluten.
    I notice that accumulation of the gluten is what affects me. I can have it for an entire week but then it sneaks up on me, just like Hapa said in her comments. I also tried to blame it on being high glycemic/high carb which can also affect sinus inflammation…but I made two clam chowders and one I made with flour and the second one I made with the same amount of potato starch. I actually got gerd with the one made with flour.